Source: www.nytimes.com : 2022-06-14 19:45:47 : Neil MacFarquhar
A Russian court on Tuesday extended the pretrial detention of the W.N.B.A. basketball star Brittney Griner on drug smuggling charges until July 2, pushing her jail stint past the four month mark, according to the official state news agency TASS.
The Khimki Court of the Moscow region granted the 18-day extension at the request of investigators, the agency quoted the court’s press service as saying. It is typical of Russian courts to extend detention repeatedly until trial. Ms. Griner’s lawyer, Aleksandr Boikov, could not immediately be reached for comment.
The American basketball star was arrested four months ago after Russian officials said they found vape cartridges bearing traces of hash oil in her luggage while she was passing through Sheremetyevo Airport, Moscow’s main international airport. The charge carries a jail sentence of up to 10 years.
Ms. Griner was arrested on Feb. 17, one week before Russia invaded Ukraine, but officials did not reveal that she had been detained until days after the war began, raising fears that she might be used as a bargaining chip in the overall crisis. There has been some speculation that once convicted, Ms. Griner might be part of a prisoner exchange with the United States.
A two-time Olympic gold medalist, Ms. Griner plays for the Phoenix Mercury, and U.S. officials met with the team on Monday to discuss efforts to secure her release. In May, the State Department said it determined that Ms. Griner had been “wrongfully detained.”
When she was taken into custody, Ms. Griner was returning to Russia to play for UMMC Ekaterinburg, a professional women’s basketball team. Many W.N.B.A. players supplement their incomes in the league’s off-season by playing internationally.
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